Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Problem with Oprah

It's finally happening...Oprah is taking over the world. Well, maybe not the world, but she is launching her very own TV network, The Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), on cable. This is just what America needs (sarcasm alert!). What is my problem with Oprah Winfrey, you ask? Don't get me wrong, I recognize her generosity and the amount of charity work she does globally. However, I also realize that her self-help brand of Christianity is leading countless people astray. Simply speaking, she's a false teacher, a wolf in sheep's clothing who looks like a great Christian on the outside but is far from knowing the truth revealed in Scripture.

Last weekend, Oprah donned the cover of the "Parade" insert in the Houston Chronicle. When asked about the launch of her new network, Oprah responded:
"I’m concerned about the bigger overall picture: my belief that people are basically good and want to see the good in them reflected through their experiences and the shows that they watch. This is a gamble I’m taking. I believe that the banal state of television, the kind of insipid space that we’re in—that you can have as many channels as we have and not find anything that really interests you—means that to a great extent we’ve lost our way."

It is clear from this quote that Oprah doesn't believe in original sin. Total depravity, the belief that humans are fallen and are born into this world bent on rebellion to their Creator, is a fundamental Christian doctrine. If you don't believe that you have a wretched sin nature, then you have no need for a Savior. If people are basically good, as Oprah teaches, then why did Jesus have to die for our sins? You only have to spend 5 minutes with a toddler to understand the reality of original sin. No one has to teach a child to disobey his parents, to hit his sister, or to grab a toy from a friend and scream "Mine!" Sin is innate within us, and without Jesus, we have no hope.

Oprah is right in noticing that "we've lost our way." However, the solution is not more self-help shows, but Jesus Christ and His Word. It's alarming to me to read Oprah complain that most TV shows are too mindless, and then to want to fix this problem with more TV shows. She makes the comment, "I think that there are people who want to be fed just a little more;" but she's talking about feeding them more mindless self-help shows, when what they really need to be fed with is God's Word! Oprah's line-up of programs include shows that show people how to get organized, how to improve their relationships, how to cook better, etc. Learning how to be more organized or how to cook a better omelet is not going to save you! You can't save yourself, which is the problem with the self-help philosophy. Only Jesus has the power to transform lives and bring hope and purpose.

I point this out in order to show you how pervasive false teaching is today. The things people like Oprah say sound great, but they don't mean anything. It's not about "living your best life" as she often says, but about dying to yourself and surrendering your life to Christ, as the Bible says! Do you see the difference? Pray every day for discernment, and be careful not to accept the things you hear just because they sound good~

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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

What's Leviticus got to do with me??

I'm not going to lie, Leviticus is not my favorite book of the Bible. When I was a teenager, I had a hard time understanding how books like this had much value. Now as an adult, I can appreciate the fact that all 66 books of the Bible are packed with truth, because they are all inspired by God. Leviticus didn't make it into the canon by mistake...God meant for it to be there! But why? What profit can there be for 21st century Christians in reading this book? Well, I'm glad you asked! Let's explore that question...

If you haven't brushed up on Leviticus lately, let me give you a brief overview. The book contains many meticulous lists covering laws given to the Jews by God. These include specific instructions for how to prepare burnt offerings (which type of animal to use, when these offerings should take place, what the priest's role is, etc), descriptions of the types of food they were allowed or forbidden to eat, specifications for what made the people clean or unclean (because of disease, childbirth, sin, etc), how to celebrate the various festivals, etc. These instructions are highly detailed and meticulous, and can be difficult to read through.

Why would God go to such tremendous length to enforce such specific instructions? Why would he care what type of sores they had on their body, whether or not they ate animals with hooves that chewed the cud, or how long new mothers waited before returning to their religious duties (all of these things appear in Leviticus!)? When you first begin to read these extensive laws, it seems a bit unnecessary. However, God had a great purpose for enforcing so many restrictions on the Jews. He had chosen them as His people out of all of the nations on the earth, and He wanted them to be set apart from the rest of the world. He wanted them to live in such a way that was so radically different than the other nations, that everyone would know that the Jews were a special nation.

In Leviticus 11:44-47, God says this, "'For I am the LORD your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy. And you shall not make yourselves unclean with any of the swarming things that swarm on the earth. For I am the LORD who brought you up from the land of Egypt to be your God; thus you shall be holy, for I am holy. This is the law regarding the animal and the bird, and every living thing that moves in the waters and everything that swarms on the earth, to make a distinction between the unclean and the clean, and between the edible creature and the creature which is not to be eaten.'" God wanted to make a distinction between His people, the Jews, and the rest of the nations. His people would be separate and holy, set apart from the pagan nations that surrounded them. In Leviticus 10:10, God talks about making "a distinction between the holy and the profane, and between the unclean and the clean." The Jews were different, and God used these laws and regulations to make that fact clear to everyone.

After Jesus ascended into heaven, we begin to see many things change in the New Testament. For example, all animals were now considered clean, and burnt sacrifices were no longer needed, because Jesus' sacrifice covered sins once for all. However, one thing did remain the same. Believers in Christ were still called to be set apart and holy for God, just as the Jews were called to be in Leviticus. Ephesians 1:4 says, "He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before him," and Romans 1:7 calls Christians "loved by God and called to be His holy people." 2 Corinthians 6:17 says, "Therefore, 'Come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.'”

Just as God called the Jews to live a life totally set apart from the pagan nations, Christians are also called to live a life set apart from the unbelievers among us. Do you live a life of holiness, set apart for the Lord? Or do you compromise and blend in with those around you, with your life looking no different than an unbeliever's? Take some time to pray over this issue, asking God to examine your heart~